This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

DEVO takes UB classroom to the global community

Published: October 23, 2003

Reporter Assistant Editor

Distance education has come a long way from the static-ridden satellite feeds that, for a while, put a damper on the larger plans of colleges and universities to take their classrooms to a global audience.


Donald McGuire, adjunct assistant professor of classics, teaches a class for Rochester high school teachers from the comfortable confines of a technology classroom in Bell Hall on the UB North Campus.

Now, thanks to upgrades in technology and Internet capabilities, almost anything is possible. Many institutions, UB included, are extending their reach worldwide with the technology that makes interactive videoconferencing an accessible and affordable venture.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Donald T. McGuire, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Classics in the College of Arts and Sciences, was teaching a class of about 30 high school teachers in Rochester the ins and outs of World Civilization instruction. The fact that he was doing it from a comfortable, high-tech engineering classroom in Bell Hall on the North Campus with about five of his own students present is due mainly to the resources and partnerships made available through Distance Education and Videoconference Operations (DEVO), a division of the Office of the Chief Information Officer. DEVO makes virtual classrooms and the attendant technology needed to support them possible through high-speed networks, both on and off campus. When these technologies are combined with UB Learns, "hybrid courses"—interactive video or videostreaming combined with content management software like Blackboard™—offer a variety of services to students who elect to take classes off-campus.

Its core mission, according to Lisa Stephens, DEVO program director, is to enable faculty, students and researchers efficient means to interact and distribute courses. "DEVO is typically called upon to serve a cohort of students that are unable to travel to campus in time to attend a regularly scheduled class that's part of a degree program, or to enable people to attend meetings when travel is inconvenient," she said. DEVO meets the needs of faculty and students through the following services:

  • Global videoconferencing through either digital telephone lines (ISDN) or high-speed Internet 2 connections from dedicated distance-learning classrooms on both campuses, or smaller, seminar-style rooms. DEVO is in the process of introducing hardware provided through a NYSTAR grant to enable multiple-site, multiple-platform videoconferencing. These expanded services will be available on a scaled basis at the beginning of the spring semester.

  • Remote video carts that allow courses to be digitally "captured" for distribution though live or video-on-demand Webcasting, or burned to CD or DVDs for "snail-mailing." These carts provide flexibility to turn any "smart classroom" or lab space into a distance-learning environment.

  • Distance-learning hybrid adoption. Although DEVO recommends that faculty work directly with the Educational Technology Center or departmental instructional designers when creating a hybrid course, DEVO often works directly with faculty to capture lecture content that then is linked to UB Learns or departmental Web pages.

  • Webcasting or videostreaming services. DEVO and CIT Instructional Technology Services both offer live event Webcasting, depending on the software needs, event location and academic application. A recent example was the successful Webcasting of Friday's Capen Hall press conference introducing John B. Simpson, who is expected to be named UB's new president on Tuesday by the SUNY Board of Trustees. (This stream is still available for viewing at: http ://

  • Satellite downlinks: Satellite dishes are available to downlink programs and are generally used for large-scale, national or international events. Participants can ask questions via telephone, fax machine or email.

  • Videotape production (Mini-DV, SVHS or VHS): Lectures can be produced "live to tape" in Baldy, Bell or Abbott halls, or with portable equipment on location by special arrangement.

  • Regional Western New York Fiber Optic Network, a high-quality, transmission system linking area K-12 schools and BOCES centers.

As part of a community-service project, DEVO last summer worked with Erie 2 BOCES to produce a live, high-profile Web cast of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Renquist giving a dedication address at the Robert H. Jackson Center for Justice in Jamestown. Jackson was a Supreme Court justice and the chief prosecutor at the post-WWII Nuremburg Trials.

DEVO, the Educational Technology Center and Academic Services CIT work closely together, says Stephens, to meet the needs of faculty and to ensure that the technology is as seamless as possible in the classroom. Class size and location are primary considerations in matching the appropriate transmission technology with the requirements of the materials presented by the instructor. Stephens notes that DEVO's mission isn't only about making long-distance connections possible, but also educating faculty about optimal ways to prepare material for videoconferencing and helping with grant proposals.

"We're excited about the growth and convergence of digital technologies on campus," says Stephens. "Thanks to the NYSTAR grant and reorganization under the CIO's office and ASCIT, we're better positioned to assist a variety of departmental initiatives on campus."

DEVO staff and student assistants learn early in the production training process that they represent the "eyes and ears" of the off-campus student. "We have to make sure that we're doing a good job of capturing the instructor's content to keep it as engaging on a screen as it is in the classroom" says Stephens about the challenge of creating a high-quality distance-learning experience.

The office can be contacted at 645-6347 or For more information, visit DEVO's Web site at, which features a schedule of available technology classrooms and details about its resources.